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Hokies focus on football / August 27, 2014

The major news around Blacksburg is that college football cranks up again Saturday, with William & Mary coming to town.

The Hokies are undoubtedly totally focused on William & Mary, as should be the case. Tech fans all too well remember the embarrassment of the JMU upset, helping to spoil the start of the 2010 season. Tech recovered, finishing 11-3 and taking out Florida State in the ACC title game.

Then, the Hokies got humbled by a physical Stanford team in the Orange Bowl.

There’s no way to absolutely predict how the 2014 opener will play out for the Hokies. But game two now has some intriguing subplots.

Ohio State is ranked fifth/sixth in the nation and the Bucks open against Navy in Baltimore. OSU suffered a major loss with the season-ending injury to senior quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes have the nation’s longest regular season winning streak at 24 games, and they’re 4-0 all time against Navy.

An upset here - even with Navy coming off a 9-4 season that ended with a 24-6 win over Middle Tennessee in the Armed Forces Bowl - is unlikely.

Navy likely does not have the depth or overall athleticism to hang with the Buckeyes.

Week Two, even in Columbus, might be a different story.

Virginia Tech certainly has slipped to a degree, finishing 7-6 in 2012 and 8-5 last season.

Tech has some points to prove, starting with the running game. Special teams have seen an overall drop-off. And, of course, new starting quarterback Michael Brewer has to prove himself. There are also depth issues on the offensive line.

But the Buckeyes might have some issues of their own.

Redshirt freshman T.J. Barrett - the first quarterback recruited and signed by Urban Meyer to OSU in 2012 - is expected to get the start against Navy.

Barrett likely will see some confusing looks when the Hokies come to town.

Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will certainly have some defensive alignments that could create trouble for the OSU offense.

There’s another twist to this saga. Among the so-called Power 5 schools, only Tennessee, with six career offensive line starts entering the 2014 campaign, has fewer offensive line starts than Ohio State and Penn State, with 20. Purdue is fourth on the list, with 30, followed by Kansas (31), Washington State (33) and Virginia (36).

Hmm.... inexperience at the quarterback spot, more greenhorns along the o-line. It might get interesting in Columbus on Sept. 6.

Beyond the OSU showdown, the Hokies have a favorable schedule for at least the rest of September.

After the OSU trip, Tech has three straight home games, starting with a tough East Carolina bunch on Sept. 13. Georgia Tech then comes to Blacksburg for a critical ACC Coastal division showdown on Sept. 20, followed by Western Michigan a week later.

Tech then has just three games in October, starting with the trip to Chapel Hill. At that point, Tech gets a little bit of a break, with extra time to prepare for a challenging road trip to Pitt on Oct. 16.

The Hokies then host Miami on Oct. 23 for a second consecutive Thursday night matchup.

Tech then gets another stretch to prepare for Boston College at home Nov. 1.

From there, the Hokies get a week off before traveling to Duke on Nov. 15.

The Blue Devils have suffered some major injury issues in the pre-season, including the loss of defensive stalwart Kelby Brown.

The regular season winds down at Wake Forest on Nov. 22 and Virginia in Blacksburg on Friday, Nov. 28.

One week at a time. Got that.

But that OSU showdown in week two could provide an important springboard for a genuine Hokie revival.

Of course, some parts of Hokie nation won’t even stop worrying about William & Mary until Sunday.

It’s speculation, of course. But while some OSU boosters might not take the Hokies seriously, you can bet Miller and his staff will be focused when Beamerball shows up for an early test in the 125th season of Buckeye football.

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